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Posts Tagged ‘portal’

NASA’s New Data Portal

May 25, 2015 1 comment

NASA recently announced the launch of a new data portal, hosting a data catalog of publicly available terrestrial and space-based datasets, APIs and data visualisations.

NASA Data Portal

NASA Data Portal

NASA’s Open Innovation team has been established to meet government mandates to make their data publicly available. The datasets, posted in a number of categories including applied and earth science, will be available to download in a variety of formats although at present not all the formats are available for all of the categories. However the data portal is work in progress so worth checking back as new datasets are posted.

From a quick search for some earth science data I found a sea surface temperature dataset acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites that I could download in a number of image formats, Google Earth or CSV format. One feature of the data portal I found useful was the accompanying basic, intermediate or advanced dataset descriptions, helping portal users identify the right datasets for their requirements.

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature dataset

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature dataset

 

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Fee vs. Free Geospatial Data: Like a Snow Shovel?

March 8, 2015 2 comments

One of my students recently shared something that I considered to be a thought-provoking analogy in the “fee vs. free” geospatial data debate that we included in our book and discuss on this blog.  The debate, in sum, revolves around the issue, “Should government data providers charge a fee for their geospatial data, or should they provide the data for free?”

The student commented, “I tend toward the “at cost” position of the debate for local governments and free side of the debate for federal data. For me, the “tax dollars are used to create the data so it has already been paid for argument” does not hold water. Taxpayers have no expectation (or shouldn’t have) of walking into the local parks department to borrow a shovel that in theory their tax dollars paid for.  The same logic could be applied to spatial assets.”  The student went on to say that the above argument should be applied to local and regional government data, because “federal level data […] tends to be more directly reflective of the population and the federal government more directly benefits from the economic opportunities created by free data.”

While I have tended to advocate on the side that geospatial data should be freely available, I believe that the student’s snow shovel analogy for local governments has merit.  Following this argument, a small fee for data requested that is over and above what that government agency provides on its website seems reasonable.  But I still am firmly on the side of that government providing at least some geospatial data for free on its website, citing the numerous benefits as documented in case studies in this blog and in our book.  These benefits range from positive public relations, saving lives and property in emergency situations, and saving time in processing requests from data users. Consider what one person can do with the snow shovel versus what one person could do with a geospatial data such as a flood dataset.  The shovel might help dredge a small section to help a few neighbors get out of their houses, but the flood dataset could help identify hundreds of houses at risk and provide a permanent, effectively managed solution.  There is an order of magnitude difference in the benefit to be gained from making geospatial data easily and freely available.

What are your thoughts on this important issue?  We invite you to share your thoughts below.

City of Boulder GIS Resources.

City of Boulder GIS Resources.

GovPond: An Australian Public Sector Data Portal

February 16, 2015 1 comment

Billed as a stop-gap solution on the path towards emulating some of the larger data portals (such as data.gov.au and open-data.europa.eu), GovPond is an Australian public sector data portal providing access to over 3,600 hand-curated datasets and 11 Government catalogues, including:

  • data.gov.au
  • data.sa.gov.au
  • data.qld.gov.au
  • data.act.gov.au
  • Landgate SLIP
  • data.csiro.au
  • Australian Ocean Data Network

GovPond

The motivation to develop the site stemmed from a previous exercise to collate public sector data sets after the site hosts discovered ‘an enormous number of tables and tools and maps and spreadsheets that were tucked away in dark, dusty corners of the internet, near-impossible to find with a quick search.’

For all the recent advances in liberating public sector data, it seems there’s still a niche for initiatives like these to get to those corners of the Internet and provide access to data resources that might otherwise elude all but the most determined data tracker.

Adoption and Advantages of ArcGIS Open Data

January 25, 2015 2 comments

According to Esri’s 2014 Open Data  year in review,  over 763 organizations around the world have joined ArcGIS Open Data, publishing 391 public sites, resulting in 15,848 open data sets shared.  These organizations include over 99 cities, 43 countries, and 35 US states.  At the beginning of 2015, the organizations represent 390 from North America, 157 from Europe, 121 from Africa, 39 from Asia, and 22 from Oceania.  Over 42,000 shapefiles, KML files, and CSV files were downloaded from these sites since July 2014.  Recently, we wrote about one of these sites, the Maryland Open Data Portal, in this blog.  Another is the set of layers from the city of Launceton, in Tasmania, Australia.

While these initiatives are specifically using one set of methods and tools to share, that of the ArcGIS Open Data, the implications on the data user community are profound:  First, the adoption of ArcGIS Open Data increases availability for the entire user community, not just Esri users.  This is because of the increased number of portals that result, and also because the data sets shared, such as raster and vector data services, KMLs, shapefiles, and CSVs, are the types of formats that can be consumed by many types of GIS online and desktop tools.  Second, as we have expressed in our book and in this blog, while there were noble attempts for 30 years on behalf of regional, national, and international government organizations to establish standards, to share data, and to encourage a climate of sharing, and while many of those attempts were and will continue to be successful, the involvement of private industry (in this case, Esri), nonprofit organizations, and academia will lend an enormous boost to government efforts.

Third, the advent of cloud-based GIS enables these portals to be fairly easily established, curated, and improved.  Using the ArcGIS Open Data platform, organizations can leave their data where it is–whether on ArcGIS for Server or in ArcGIS Online–and simply share it as Open Data. Esri uses Koop to transform data into different formats, to access APIs, and to get data ready for discovery and exploration. Organizations add their nodes to the Open Data list and their data can then be accessed, explored, and downloaded in multiple formats without “extraneous exports or transformations.”  Specifically, organizations using ArcGIS Open Data first enable the open data capabilities, then specify the groups for open data, then configure their open data site, and then make the site public.

I see one of the chief ways tools like ArcGIS Open Data will advance the open data movement is through the use of tools that are easy to use, and also that will evolve over time.  Nobody has an infinite amount of time trying to figure out how to best serve their organization’s data, and then to construct the tools in which to do so.  The ability for data-producing organizations to use these common tools and methods represents, I believe, an enormous advantage in the time savings it represents.  As more organizations realize and adopt this, all of us in the GIS community, and beyond, will benefit.

ArcGIS Open Data

ArcGIS Open Data users and information.

Maryland’s Mapping and GIS Data Portal

September 29, 2014 4 comments

Maryland’s mapping and GIS “iMap” data portal takes an innovative approach to serving data.  It allows the user to zoom to a specific area on the map and then conduct a data search for that specific area.  Yes, other sites have done this for years, but the Maryland data portal uses a dynamic ArcGIS Online map to launch searches.  In addition, the 20 data categories listed–from agriculture to demographics, health to imagery, structures to weather–are rich in content, and the data user is offered numerous data formats to receive the data.  The site also goes the extra distance by providing step-by-step instructions on how to add web and WFS services, how to geocode, how to join data, and how to cartographically display results.

The GIS data portal is run by the Geographic Information Office (GIO), and by collaborating with partners, it seeks to “provide access to a large collection of data via the Maryland iMap that can be leveraged for use in many applications and analyses.”  The GIS data portal is a part of the state’s open data portal, which claims to be #1 in the USA for its commitment to open data.

We are honest in our book and in this blog about describing data portals that seem to be there “just for show” and that had no input from GIS professional staff.  The Maryland iMap portal, by contrast, is quite innovative, extensive, and GIS-user friendly, and seems to be a good model for other organizations to follow.  Such portals do not appear overnight, and this is obviously the product of a good deal of collaboration among government, private, academic, and nonprofit organizations,

Maryland's iMap Mapping and GIS Data Portal

Maryland’s iMap Mapping and GIS Data Portal.

Playas and Wetlands of the Southern Ogallala Aquifer Data Released

September 1, 2014 2 comments

A new web resource from Texas Tech University of playas and wetlands for the southern High Plains region of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico offers a wide variety of spatial data on this key resource and region.  The playa and wetlands GIS data are available for download here, including shapefile, geodatabase, and layer package formats.   The data include 64,726 wetland features, of which 21,893 are identified as playas and another 14,455 as unclassified wetlands; in other words, they appear to be a playa but have no evidence of a hydric soil.   The remaining features include impoundments, riparian features lakes, and other wetlands.

As we discuss in our book, (1) Many spatial data depositories seem to have been created without the GIS user in mind. Not this one.  Careful attention has been paid to the data analyst.  That’s good news!  (2)  Resources such as this don’t appear without a great deal of time and expertise invested.  Here, approximately 5,000 person hours were dedicated to create the geodatabase and website.  This project was made possible by Texas Tech University with funding from the USDA Agricultural Research Service – Ogallala Aquifer Program.

For users who only wish to view playas and other wetlands, a web map application exists and can be launched via the playa viewer.  A “citizen science” feature is that the map viewer allows interactive comments to be added to the map for future consideration.

Southern Ogallala Aquifer Playa and Wetlands Geodatabase

Southern Ogallala Aquifer Playa and Wetlands Geodatabase.

 

The National Atlas of the USA is Disappearing

July 6, 2014 2 comments

One of the most useful sites of the past 15 years for GIS users, in my judgment, has been the National Atlas of the United States.  It contains a “map maker” that allows you to create online maps of climate, ecoregions, population, crime, geology, and many other layers, and a “map layers” repository that houses all of the raster and vector data layers that are displayable in the map maker.  All of those hundreds of layers are downloadable in standard formats that are easy to use with GIS.

Sadly, the National Atlas is scheduled to disappear on 30 September 2014.  According to the transition FAQ, “the National Atlas and The National Map will transition into a combined single source for geospatial and cartographic information.  This transformation is projected to streamline access to maps, data and information from the USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP).  This action will prioritize our civilian mapping role and consolidate core investments while maintaining top-quality customer service.”  Thus, the National Map is scheduled to be the content delivery mechanism for the National Atlas content.

But, data users take note:  Not all of the National Atlas content is migrating to the National Map.  According to the FAQ’s question of “Will I still be able to find everything from the National Atlas on The National Map web site”, the answer is, “No. Most National Atlas products and services that were primarily intended for a broad public audience as well as thematic data contributions from outside the National Geospatial Program (NGP) will not be available from nationalmap.gov.”

I think this is most unfortunate news.  In my opinion, and that of many students and educators that I work with in courses and institutes, and the other data users I have worked with over the years, the National Map is almost as clunky and difficult to use as it was 10 years ago.  I use it frequently because it is still one of the richest sources of data, but it is by no means easy to obtain that data.  And equally importantly, it serves a different audience than the National Atlas does.   Yes, the National Atlas viewer is dated, but it requires little bandwidth, making it accessible to schools and other institutions contending with poor connectivity. How much effort is required just to leave national atlas alone and leave it online, with an understanding that it will not be updated?

In an era where more geospatial data are needed, not less, and improved geographic literacy is increasingly critical to education and society, the disappearance of the National Atlas seems like a giant step backward.

National Atlas website with Map Maker and just a few of the many data layers available.

National Atlas website with Map Maker and just a few of the many data layers available.